It’s been a rough few years for homeowners. Since the collapse of a housing bubble in 2008, mortgage-holders have been yanked around every which way by the banks that own their loans. Mega-banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America have earned their reputations for being impenetrable, hostile bureaucracies to their customers. The industry has done everything from issuing loans that borrowers had no chance of repaying, to “losing” paperwork that distressed borrowers endlessly resend, to foreclosing on borrowers who have actually paid, and even discriminating based on race and gender.
But it’s not just the banks making life harder for homeowners anymore. Loan servicers are buying up more mortgages every day, and borrowers are plagued with just as many problems from these third-party companies as they have been from the big banks.
As the New York Times reports, loan servicing companies now own about 17% of the mortgages in the country. While that may not sound like a huge number, these servicing companies held only 3% of mortgages in 2010. That’s an enormous change in a very few years.
It’s also a change that’s proving difficult for consumers that need help. It’s hard enough for a borrower to request and receive a loan modification from a big bank; getting one from a servicer, when your loan keeps being handed off among them, can be even harder. By the time you finally have someone agreeing you’ve sent the right paperwork, you might have to do it all over again with yet another company.
Borrowers with two huge servicing companies, Ocwen and Nationstar, have particularly low chances of seeing a modification approved for their mortgages. While Bank of America has approved roughly 44% of modifications since 2009, the NYT says, Ocwen has approved just 23% and Nationstar, 22%.
Meanwhile, complaints against the servicing companies have been increasing. One couple who won a modification from BoA told the Times that it vanished into thin air when Nationstar took over managing their mortgage a few months later. Another homeowner described to the NYT her experience being bounced among three servicers in less than two years: “I either get conflicting answers or no answer at all.”
In January, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced new rules requiring mortgage servicers to provide actual service to customers in need. The deputy director of the CFPB, Steve Antonakes, said at a conference on Wednesday that he was “deeply disappointed by the lack of progress the mortgage servicing industry has made” in helping consumers.
“There will be no more shell games where the first servicer says the transfer ended all of its responsibility to consumers and the second servicer says it got a data dump missing critical documents,” Antonakes added, saying that situations where servicers refused to honor loan modifications “would not be tolerated,” and that loan handoffs should be “seamless” for consumers.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, has also urged regulators to extend greater oversight over mortgage servicers.
Loan Complaints By Homeowners Rise Once More [New York Times]
Official ‘Deeply Disappointed’ by Mortgage Servicing Problems [Wall Street Journal]